Robots in the Warehouse
Depending on who you talk to, a fully-automated warehouse could be a blessing or a curse. Many people worry that robots and other kinds of technology will lead to a decrease in jobs. But, while technology may have eliminated some jobs, it often creates new ones. One example is the impact that e-commerce has had on warehouses and the way they are run. In this instance, technology has led to an increased need for workers, but labor shortages are becoming more common.
Brian Baskin of The Wall Street Journal looks at the ways that robotics are helping to bridge this gap in workers. Developers are working on robots that are able to pick and pack orders. It's not as simple or easy as you might think. When it works, robots can be 50% faster than their human counterparts, but robots need to be taught to recognize the correct item and select it. For larger warehouses that stock many items, this can be a difficult task. The robots also need to learn how to properly grasp the item, to avoid damaging it. A number of companies are working to create more effective and efficient robots. Some, like Amazon, also sponsor robotics competitions to encourage new ideas and new developers.
Supporting Web Links
- Automation Off-sets Warehousing Labor Shortage
- Amazon Is Going Underwater. Seriously.
- Video: Automating the Grocery Warehouse
- Video: Inside Amazon's robotic warehouse
- Video: Robot Returns Sick Student to Classroom
- What opinion do your students have about robots? Are they stealing our jobs? Making our lives easier? Are students surprised to learn that technology is also creating a demand for a larger workforce in some areas? Consider showing one of the videos from the Supporting Web Links section and discussing it afterward.
- Divide the class into two groups to debate the use of robots and their impact on the workforce. Allow sufficient time for the groups to research their position, then gather together to debate the topic.
- As an individual project, ask students to research the use of robotics in a specific industry such as education, manufacturing, healthcare, farming, etc. Students should create a brief presentation to share their findings with the class.